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DC: Are Some Markets Overheated?

National Office

We're not just talking about our sunburn. Office fundamentals are out of whack in some of the country's biggest markets, though one expert isn't ready to use the word "bubble" just yet. Delta Associates CEO Greg Leisch (snapped at our BMAC West event this year with CG Design and Development's Catherine Guentert) says there are serious supply-and-demand questions happening in certain US office markets, including his home market of DC. The nation's capital has seen solid job growth, but fewer of those jobs are office using, he says, creating major demand issues. "It's been happening for five years, and probably will for the next five years," says Greg, who adds that federal cutbacks and office tenants in DC using less space per employee are also factors cutting into demand.

Other markets, like Houston (pictured) have clear supply issues. Driven by booming growth in the energy industry, Houston has 17M SF of office under construction—equal to 7.5% of the city's total existing inventory. And with absorption hovering around 3M to 3.5M SF per year, developers there may be in for some lean years trying to lease buildings up, Greg says. New York may be headed for a similar supply problem, but it's concentrated heavily in Lower Manhattan, he adds. But not every major market faces such issues—Greg says Chicago is in equilibrium, since the debt and equity world has been hesitant to finance new office construction, and that the new office supply of Dallas is basically in equal step with demand.